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Senior DHS official reassigned after office compiled intel reports on journalists, protesters

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has reassigned a senior official who led the agency's Intelligence & Analysis Office after reports surfaced that the office had been creating intelligence reports on journalists covering the protests in Portland, Ore., The Washington Post reported Saturday.

The Post, citing three people familiar with the situation, reported that Brian Murphy, the acting undersecretary of the office, was removed from his post and reassigned to a different, undisclosed position within the department.

The Hill has reached out to DHS for comment.

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The existence of the reports — known as Open Source Intelligence Reports — was reported on by multiple news outlets earlier this week.

The Post reported that leaked documents showed federal agents in Portland had been relying on financial intelligence and "Baseball cards" of arrested protesters to better assess the situation.

"Baseball cards" have historically been used by the U.S. intelligence community as background information on suspected terrorists, the newspaper noted.

Moreover, Open Source Intelligence Reports have not traditionally been compiled on U.S. citizens who lack ties to terrorist activity and are exercising rights protected by the First Amendment, as the journalists were doing.

DHS on Friday said it would stop making intelligence reports on the journalists covering the protests and that an investigation into the matter would be forthcoming.

“Upon learning about the practice, Acting Secretary [Chad] Wolf directed the DHS Intelligence & Analysis Directorate to immediately discontinue collecting information involving members of the press. In no way does the Acting Secretary condone this practice and he has immediately ordered an inquiry into the matter,” DHS spokesman Alexei Woltornist told media outlets.

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Woltornist added, “The Acting Secretary is committed to ensuring that all DHS personnel uphold the principles of professionalism, impartiality and respect for civil rights and civil liberties, particularly as it relates to the exercise of First Amendment rights.” 

Senate Democrats wrote to Murphy demanding to know if the reports were accurate, saying they had “grown increasingly concerned about the role and operations of the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.”

Federal officers have been in Portland since late June, deployed by Wolf to protect the city's federal courthouse, which has sustained damage from the demonstrations. Black Lives Matter protests have rocked the area around the courthouse since George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody at the end of May, equating to more than 60 days of protesting.